Punctuation, Grammar, Sentence Construction Tips



             First letter of first word of a sentence.

            The word I when ever it is used.

Names of persons – Alexander

            Titles of persons – General Patton

            Titles of articles

-         The first letter of a title

-         If more than one word, capitalize all with content

-         Do not capitalize small (function) words, i.e., and, a, for, the, on

Specific geographical areas – North America

            Names of organizations – Stratford University Alumni Association

            Names of days, months, and special days – Tuesday, January, Thanksgiving

End punctuation

            Period (.)

When the sentence makes a statement

                        End of an abbreviation + A.M., P.M.   

            Exceptions UN, FBI, CIA, NASA

Question mark (?) when the sentence asks a question

            Exclamation point (!) when the sentence expresses strong feelings


            Between the items of a list of three or more words, phrases or clauses in a series

                        The flag was red, white, and blue.

Note:               Not when words follow a conjunction

                                    The flag was red and white and blue.

                        We played tennis, took long walks, and went swimming.

Connects two sentences with a combining word (coordinating conjunction)

                        FANBOYS – for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.

            Separate an introductory word/phrase from rest of sentence

                        For example, the hammer is kept next to the nails.

                        In conclusion, remember to study hard.

            Identifies additional information which describes the noun (an appositive)

                        Her father, an airline pilot, taught her to fly.

                        Richmond, the capital of Virginia, is very historical.

Use with an adjective or nonrestrictive clause often beginning with a relative pronoun (who, that, which,

whom, whose, whoever, whomever)    

                        The weather, which is usually pleasant this time of year, suddenly turned cold.

Separate city name from state

                        Manassas, Virginia

            Separate numbers in dates and the year from following words in a sentence.

                        Tuesday, July 28, 2009

                        Tuesday, July 28, 2009, was the year my brother was born.

Separate address in city from state.

                        1234 Main Street, Washington, D.C.

            Separate digits into groups of three but not in the year.  

                        1,000,000 unites then ten then hundreds



                        Use in place of the letter or letters that have been deleted

                        He’s (he is), we’d (we would), it’s (it is)


                        Singular - One farmer

                                    Add apostrophe then s  (the farmer’s barn)

                        Plural - Several farmers and several barns

                                    Add apostrophe after s (the farmers’ barns)

                                    Several persons owning one house (the Browns’ house)

 Quotation Marks

             - Identify the exact spoken words

Use a comma before

Capitalize the first letter of the first word

                        Include the ending punctuation within the quotation sign

                                    Jim said, “I will run in the race.”

            - Identify words borrowed from another source

                        Mother’s motto was, “a penny saved is a penny earned.”          

            - Identify a word or phrase used in a special way

                        Mother Theresa was a “servant of the poor.”

            - Identify a quotation within a quotation

Single quotation mark

            Thomas said, “Remember what Albert Einstein said, ‘Always look to the stars.’”


- Two or more words combined into one compound word

                        brother-in-law,  court-appointed,   go-between 

            - Between prefixes and proper names

                        All-American,   mid-Atlantic

- Between compound numbers above twenty up to ninety-nine

                        Twenty-one,    fifty-six

            - Separate the numbers within fractions

                        One-third,    five-eighths


            Connect two simple sentences (one independent clause each)

            Must be a relationship between the two.

                         The Bobcats won the tournament; they are the best team in the state.

                        It is raining again today; it’s rained every day this week.

 Colon ( : )

            Introduce something that is to follow.

                        A formal list.

                        An emphatic a point or make a restatement.

                         To emphasize one point.

             Introduce a formal quotation or formal question.

                        Separate a title and subtitle

                         Separate chapter and verse in the Bible.

                         Separate hours and minutes

                         After salutation in a formal business letter.         

                         A formal quotation or formal question.

                         Separate title and subtitle,        

 A Sentence is a group of words gathered in a structured way which convey an idea or ideas.

 Nouns are naming words - people, places, things, or ideas.

             Proper Noun - specific individual, specific place, or specific thing.

-         capitalize proper nouns

-         Joseph,  Chicago,  Everest

             Common Noun – a general name for Proper noun.

      - boy,   city,    mountain

Pronoun - a word that may substitute for a noun.

                         Singular  (one)                                   Plural  (many)

                        I                                                           we

                        you (one person)                                  you (several persons)

                        he, she, it                                              they

             Indefinite pronouns refer to nouns (persons, place, things) in a general way.

                        each                 everyone             nobody            somebody

             Possessive pronouns refer to ownership and possession:

                        mine                his                    hers                 yours               its

             Demonstrative pronouns point out particular things:

                         Singular:      this,     that                                   Plural:     these,     those

                             This is my country.                               These tourist attractions.

                             That is my graduate school.                  Those religious temples.

            Relative pronouns  used in place of a noun:

            that          which           what          who

Relative pronouns at the beginning of a sentence introduce questions:

             Which is the best tourist attraction ?

                        What are the most famous sights to see ?

                        Who believes their graduate school is best ?

 Note:   To be the subject of a sentence, a pronoun must stand alone.

 Subject - of a sentence is a person or thing which causes the action or expresses a state of being.

-         may be a proper noun, common noun, pronoun

           Simple subject of a sentence is usually a single noun or pronoun.

                        George ate the apple.   

                        She ate the apple.

           Complete subject of a sentence is the simple subject and all its modifiers (the words which
                        describe it).

                        George, being very hungry, ate the apple.

             Compound subject of a sentence may consist of two or more subjects, usually joined by and or or,

that function together.

            George and Bill ate the apples.

            Either Jane or Sally will receive the honor.

Implied subject of a sentence is suggested or understood.  A sentence which gives a command has

(you) as the implied subject.

            (You) Sit over here, please.

            (You) Write down the following information.

 Verb – is a word in a sentence which expresses action or being.

             Action verbs indicate movement or accomplishment of an idea or deed.

                        George ate the apple.

                        Jane understood the directions.

             Being verbs indicate existence.  Being verbs – is, was were, am, and are

                        The child is sad.

                        The classroom was changed.

                        Sam and Joe were elected

                        I am contented.

                        We are prepared.

             Verb phrases are made of a main verb and one more of the following helping verbs:  is, was, can,

have, do, may, shall, are, were could, had, does, might, should, am, will, has, did, must, would.

                        George is running to the school.

                        George may speak at the assembly.

                        Mary can sing well.

                        I have called you each day.      

             Compound verbs are verbs joined by a word such as and or or.

                        Mary sang   well   and   won   the prize.

                                  verb                      verb

Joseph   stretched  for the  ball  and   pulled  his leg muscle.

                                          verb                                    verb

You may either  walk  or  run  to the store.

                                                   verb       verb            

Verbals are verb-like words in a certain way, but they do not function as verbs.  They act as other

parts of speech.

             Verbal #1 – Infinitive uses the word to and a verb.  It is not connected to the subject of the sentence.   It acts as a noun or
                                  describing unit.

                                    She       wanted   to win the trophy.      

                                    subject    verb 

                                     To win  the  trophy    was   her goal.    

                                                       subject    verb

                                     To win is the infinitive. 

             Verbal # 2 Gerund is a verb-like word, acts as a noun, and ending with –ing.

                                    Their    goal      was   winning the prize.

                                              subject    verb                

                                     Winning the   prize     was   their goal.

                                                         subject    verb

                                    Winning in each sentence is a Gerund which acts like a noun.

            Verbal # 3 – Participle is a verb-like word ending with an –ing or an –ed.

                                    Being a pilot,   Bill       said    he was qualified to answer the question.   

          subject   verb

Stranded on an island, the     survivors    lost   hope.     

            subject     verb           

Being and stranded are describing words, not true verbs in the sentences.        

 Sentence Location of Subjects and Verbs

             The subject usually appears before the verb, but not always.

                        The      horses       ran    through the forest.

                                    subject      verb

                         How    was     Sally’s    answer   different?

                                    verb                   subject

 A Clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb that functions as a part or all of a complete sentence.

             Independent Clause – a group of words with a subject and verb that can stand alone and make sense.

            -  expresses a complete thought

India is a large country.

                                    India gained independence in 1947.

               Dependent Clause – a group of words with a subject and verb that depends on the main clause to
                                                 give it meaning.

                                    Compared to Pakistan,   India is a large country.

                                        (dependent clause)         (independent clause)

                                     India gained independence in 1947   after World War II

                                                 (independent clause)              (dependent clause)

                 Relative Clause – a dependent clause begins with a relative pronoun as: that, which, or

                    who.  This relative pronoun relates the dependent clause to the subject              

                    of the sentence.

   which is mainly rice

  (dependent clause)

  India’s main crop, which is mainly rice, provides much income.

                                                                      (dependent clause)

 The Types of Sentences

             Simple Sentence  = one independent clause.

                                          -  contains a subject and a verb.

                                          -  can stand alone as a complete sentence.

                                     India is a large country.

             Compound Sentence =  two or more independent clauses.

 -  both contain a subject and a verb.

                       -  both can stand alone as a complete sentence.

                                     India is a large country.   India has vast resources.

                                      (independent clause)        (independent clause)

                          To combine independent clauses into one sentence, you may:

                         Place a comma before a coordinating conjunction word such as: for, and, nor, but,

or, yet, so. (FANBOYS)

                                     India is a large country,   and    it has vast resources.

                                                            coordinating conjunction

                                       (independent clause)               (independent clause)

                                     A coordinating conjunction unites two independent clauses.

                         2.  Or you place a semicolon between the two independent clauses.

                                     India is a large country.  India has vast resources.

                                     India is a large country;    it has vast resources.


                         3.  Or you may use a semicolon and a conjunctive adverb plus a comma.

     Use the words: ;however, ;otherwise, ; therefore, ;similarly, ;hence, ;on the other hand,           

     ;then, ; consequently, ; also, ; thus,  (HOTSHOT CAT)

                                     India is a large country; also, it has vast resources.

             Complex Sentence =  one independent clause.

                                             +  one or more dependent clauses.

                                     India prospers         because of its vast resources.

                               (independent clause)            (dependent clause)

              To combine a dependent clause to an independent clause, you may:    

                                    Independent clause first

                                                 India prospers       because of its vast resources.

                                           (Independent clause)         (dependent clause)

 Use a subordinating conjunction word:  after, although, as, as if, because, before, even if,
 even though, if, in order that, provided that, rather than, since, so that, than, unless, until, when,  whenever, where, whereas, wherever, whether, while

                                     Dependent clause first

                                                 Because of its vast resources,    India prospers.

                                                 (use a comma to separate the two clauses)

             Compound-Complex Sentence =  two or more independent clauses (compound).

     +  one or more dependent clauses (complex).

India is a large country,  and  it has vast resources  which benefit the people   and   helps them prosper.

                        (coordinating conjunction)                                             (coordinating conjunction)

  (independent clause)             (independent clause)          (dependent clause)                 (dependent clause)

                         Examples of arranging clauses to emphasize an idea.

                        India is a large country, and it has vast resources benefit the people and helps them prosper.                                             

                        The vast resources of the large country of India make its people benefit and prosper.

                         The people of India both benefit and prosper because of its vast resources and large size.

                         The large size of India, with its vast resources, benefits its people and makes them prosper.

 Sentence Fragments are groups of words

            Without a subject

                        Ate the apple

                        Is traveling fast

             With a subject and verb that cannot stand alone

                        When the teacher came

                        After the plane landed

              Acceptable fragments

                         Hooray!           Oh my gosh!            Good night.           Why not?

            Dependent Clauses as Fragments: Clauses with Subordinating Conjunctions having a capital
            letter at the beginning and a period at the end.

                                     Incorrect - They continued to play.  After the whistle blew.              

                       Attach the dependent clause to the independent clause.

                                    Correct – They continued to play after the whistle blew.

                                    Correct – After the whistle blew, they continued to play.

             Relative Clauses as Fragments: Clauses with Relative Pronouns having a capital letter at the
             beginning and a period at the end.

                                     Incorrect – Who made the goal. 

                         Attach the fragment to the noun to which it refers.                     

                                     Correct – Maradonna, who made the goal, was cheered.

Run-On Sentences

            Independent clauses are not separated.

                                     Incorrect – The soccer team won    we ran on the field.

                                                       (independent clause)    (independent clause)

            Place a period between the independent clauses

                                    Correct – The soccer team won.  We ran on the field.


                                    Correct – After the soccer team won, we ran on the field.

                                    (subordinating conjunction)     (comma link)

Paragraph Writing Structure

             A Paragraph is a group of sentences which state or support the main idea contained in the topic sentence.

             The Subject   -  What you will write about.

-  Usually broad and then made more focused.

          Initial treatment        

                         Vitamins   are   necessary for good health

                        subject                    broad treatment

          Expanded treatment

                       Vitamins are useful to reduce heart disease, strong immune system, and mental health.

                        subject              more precise treatment

The Topic Sentence – Contains the subject

                                   -  Contains the treatment (what you will do with the subject).

                      While vitamins are considered necessary to maintain good health, certain ones can effect us


Support – The evidence given explains, expands, and develop the topic sentence.

               -  Appears as additional paragraphs.

 Conclusion – A statement of facts which uses the evidence of the Supporting Section in restating the

                       Topic Sentence.

 The Outline    –  Is a created pattern which clearly shows the relationship of ideas.

                         -  Shows how a topic sentence is supported.

           -  Shows the organization of the material.

Major ideas  &  supporting ideas

           I           Roman numerals

          A.        Capital letters

          1.         Arabic numerals

          a.         Lower case letters

          1.)        Arabic numerals + parenthesis

          a.)        Lower case letters + parenthesis


* First letter of first word of each sentence.
   Example:  Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party.
* Names of persons.
   Example:  William Smith,   Mary Jones
* Days of the week.
   Example:  Sunday,   Thursday
* Days of the month.
   Example:  January,   May
* Proper Nouns.
   Example:  Lexus,       Woodrow Wilson Bridge,         Washington Monument
* Common nouns are not capitalized.
   Example:  car,            bridge,                                      monument
* Titles.
   Example:  General MacArthur,    President George Washington,    Judge Michael Ridgeway
* Specific geographical areas.
   Example:  North America,       the North,          Appalachia 
* Names of organizations.
   Example:  United Nations,       Congress,          Stratford University
* Names of days, months and special days.
   Example:  Sunday,      Thanksgiving,                 St. Patrick’s Day


Apartment – Apt.
Doctor – Dr.
Engineer – Eng.
Governor - Gov.
Highway - Hwy.
Honorable – Hon.
Inch - In.
Married woman - Mrs.
Medical Doctor – M.D.
Mister – Mr.
Ounce - Oz.
Parkway - Pkwy.
Street – St.
United States – U.S.


*  Between numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine.
    Example:         thirty-five apples,            seventy-seven students
*  To separate parts of a compound word.
    Example:         in-between,        all-around best
*  To separate prefix and a proper name.
    Example:    all-American,        mid-West
*  To join two or more words used as a single adjective modifier before a noun.
   court-appointed lawyer,       first-rate performance

Et Cetera (etc.)

Correct - to continue an understood sequence: 10, 20, 30, etc.
Incorrect - random words with no understood order:  pens, chairs, pictures, etc.